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This morning dawned cloudy with a bit of rain. Hmmmm... might be storms in the afternoon. Patrol C is out on the second leg of their bike trip into Maryland. Patrol A is river hiking today, a great thing to do in the rain if it comes to that, while the Patrol D gang are going whitewater paddling down the Middle Yough.
The Middle Yough drains from below the Yough Dam, so it's a chilly river (about 57 degrees in the summertime). It starts upstream of Ohiopyle in the town of Confluence, then meanders through a bunch of Class I - II rapids. We're going to be out on the river in kayaks and duckies. A duckie is a sort of one or two-man inflatable kayak... kind of a cross between a kayak and a raft. It's maneuverable like a kayak, but more stable like a raft. Senior Scouts Ryan Hibbs, Ben Pernick, Tim Kenny, and Steven Lawton were outfitted with regular troop kayaks. Ryan hasn't lost any of his mojo from last year, and with just a bit of brief practice to shake off the rust whipped off a few good kayak eskimo rolls.
The group put in at Ramcat Rapid, and practiced some basic boat control by doing forward and backward ferries across the strong current. Ivan the Terrible in his own duckie proved to be a complete natural, and followed the Vulture move for move, forward and backward. Ben Pernick and the double-duck team of Jason and Luke were too strong for the current and paddled quite a ways upstream rather than straight across. Gotta love those strong paddlers.
We took a brief break to munch on some gorp and glug some water, and then got to do a brief whitewater swim. When in moving water, it's important to learn how to be calm and just float downriver with your feet up until you get to a safe spot. Trying to stand up in swift current is a strict no-no, because the current can easily push you over and trap your feet between rocks in odd ways. So all the guys got to jump in and whitewater swim a stretch of Ramcat. Ivan was his crazy self and leapt right in, while Jason took the wiser approach of practicing the float a bit in a calm pool at the side. Smart guy! With our younger scouts swimming, Ryan and Steven got to practice their throw-rope rescues at the bottom of the short stretch of river. No misses! Everybody demonstrated a good level of comfort with the water and handling upsets, so we loaded back into boats and headed downstream as the first storm cell began to spit some rain at us. Chris Kuzel was close behind the Vulture, followed by the double-duck team of Matt Squared (Matt Epperson and Matt Karls). Matt Karls steering in the back did a fantastic job all day, and is clearly going to be a super-strong Troop 8 guy.
While the duckie crew did well, our kayakers were a bit more entertaining. At the second rapid of the river, Steven Lawton was surprised by the Vulture taking everyone over a 1 foot waterfall, and promptly flipped and swam. I wish photographer Max Miller could have caught that shot, because Steven's eyes got SO big. He dutifully emptied out his boat and we set out again, only to have him blow a move and end up in the water again about 100 yards later. Dumpster Jim may have a recruit for the Troop 8 Whitewater Swim Team! Other kayakers that ended up in the water included Ben and Scouter Bob, who tried to roll up only to discover that Sam Taylor had parked his duckie on top of Bob's head. That really makes eskimo rolls hard. Sam was a kind fellow and helped Bob get his boat emptied out. Tim Kenny and Ryan avoided the swim, though, and by the end of the day both of them as well as Ben had logged practice eskimo rolls.
As it turned out, the thunderstorm cell missed us by a couple miles and rumbled up into West Virginia while we broke for lunch on a small river island. Yummy! That started our long paddle through Victoria Flats, the flat section of the river. The guys spirits held up pretty well through the grind, and by midafternoon we hit the fun rapids toward the end of the river. The group finished up with the infamous Elephant Rapid, where last year's gang of four rescued the rafting family. Though he tried to stay on the Vulture's tail, Ivan just missed the move and ended up on a rock, followed by Chris Kuzel who tried to shoot the gap between Ivan and Elephant. He almost made it, but got the tail of his duck hung up and stuck. With those guys demonstrating where not to go, the team of Matt and Matt steered right of the Elephant and had a great run, Sam cut to the left and did well, and the kayak gang all made the move just fine. A quick paddle to the takeout finished up an awesome river day!
Our biking crew Patrol C returned in the late afternoon from their great adventure. They had all kinds of interesting fun along the trail. In the small town of Meyersburg, the group stopped at the small rail museum along the trail. With the adults inside and the boys loading back into bikes, they were confronted by the local sheriff. He turned out to be a terrific fellow, who wanted to hear all about their trek, wanted ideas on how to encourage more folks to come through, and handed out a bunch of junior police stickers. Small towns like Meyersburg are dying, and are desperately hoping that things like the rail trail will help keep them alive a bit. Good Citizenship in the Nation stuff.
There was a fun moment while young James Dunbar stopped to help a lady along the trail with a dog that was going nuts. Turns out the dog was fine, but she bent James' ear for quite a while with all her family woes and issues, the deaths of recent family members, her struggles with her husband, on and on. Sometimes doing your good turn involves just listening.
With that kind of long uphill bike ride, the guys got some practice with the infamous "carbo crash". Young folks especially fall into the trap of burning through their stored carbohydrates and going "boink." Just running out of gas. A quick shot of straight up glucose sugar and wow! Everything's all better. Of course, when they hit the divide, it was all downhill, through the old mile-long train tunnels and into the Maryland valleys.
Some ice cream and a shuttle back to camp, and a bunch of happy bikers.
Meanwhile, Patrol A headed down the river hike at Meadow Creek.... we're awaiting an update from our spies on the river, and should post it in a bit!